General Question

mattbrowne's avatar

Criticizing Israeli policies - What do you think about the claim of large-scale intimidation and threats against liberal Jews in America?

Asked by mattbrowne (31638points) March 10th, 2012

I’d like to quote from Michael Lerner’s recent book:

“I was told by the editor of a major American mainstream newspaper that he had been ordered by his publisher to not allow op-eds critical of Israeli policy.

Diaspora critics of Israeli policies sometimes find themselves faced with serious threats to their career or, among those who are most well known and outspoken, even their lives. Whether in a law firm, a medical practice, a university, a news organization, Hollywood, or American politics, many of those who question the morality of Israeli policies have come to believe that their well-being dictates that they hide these disagreements or risk serious loss to their careers.

People like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Amira Hass have all faced abusive dismissals of their thinking and writing. There is immense pressure against people if they dare publicly criticize Israel.

In this sense, the anti-communist McCarthyite tactics have been given new life by the Israel lobby in the United States.

AIPAC working informally with a series of pro-right-wing political action committees has become one of the most influential lobbies in Washington. AIPAC has become a cheerleader for the most reactionary governments that Israel has ever had.”

What happened to free speech in America?

How serious are Lerner’s claims?

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84 Answers

tom_g's avatar

I am aware of this and how it relates to Noam Chomsky, who has much to say about Israel. Having critical things to say about the actions of Israel does not = antisemitism. The effect this has is to stifle critical thought and speech.

janbb's avatar

This is very true in terms of pro-Israel Jews in America being very critical of Jews who dare to question Israel’s policies. I have firsthand knowledge of this.

mattbrowne's avatar

@tom_g – Well, it seems not only to affect Noam Chomsky but tens of thousands of Jews in America, who become victims of threats and who are unfairly being accused of antisemitism. If this were really true there should be a large-scale public outcry. Both Israel and the US are democracies. It’s normal to have different opinions. Debates are the fuel of progress. If being critical is no longer possible, this damages freedom and democracy. It’s not possible to criticize totalitarian systems, but it must be possible to criticize democratically elected governments. I’m shocked about what I’m reading in Michael Lerner’s book.

jaytkay's avatar

pro-Israel Jews in America being very critical of Jews who dare to question Israel’s policies

“Pro-Israel”? Ugggh, I hate how reactionaries have co-opted that term.

Conservatives use “Pro-Israel” like they use “pro-American” – as a euphemism for hard-right nationalism (which actually works against Israeli or US interests).

janbb's avatar

@jaytkay I take your point; I struggled with what term to use and felt that “hard-right Jews” or even Zionists was more ambiguous. I don’t think we disagree at all in our interpretation of their behavior, however.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I didn’t see Lerner’s column, but in the past he hasn’t been particularly honest – he tends to spin things to meet his personal agenda. So I wouldn’t take what he wrote very seriously.

Having said that, the AIPAC is nothing more than an arm of the Israeli Likud party – it didn’t used to be, but it is now. As such, they speak for a minority of Jews.

zenvelo's avatar

From this week’s New Yorker “Talk of the Town” : Last year, a poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute found that fifty-one per cent of Israelis believed that people “should be prohibited from harshly criticizing the State of Israel in public.” Netanyahu encourages the notion that any such criticism is the work of enemies.

Even the country’s staunchest ally, the United States, is not above suspicion. The current Administration has coöperated with Israeli intelligence to an unprecedented extent and has led a crippling sanctions effort against Iran, yet Netanyahu, who visits Washington this week, has shown imperious disdain for Barack Obama.

Read more

This is happening in U.S. to anyone who even wishes to discuss Israel’s policies.

ratboy's avatar

@mattbrowne, the US was once a democracy, but now it is an oligarchy. Even the trappings of democracy have been discarded—the model of government has become ownership. Can you seriously look to the US for critical discussion when the Republican primaries are going 24/7? It seems that our nation has degenerated to a state of imbecility—both intellectually and morally.

flutherother's avatar

You don’t have to be Jewish to be intimidated by the Israel lobby. American political figures at all levels are extremely wary of saying the wrong thing about Israel. And not just political figures but those in the media also.

mattbrowne's avatar

@elbanditoroso – Can you give me a few examples when Lerner wasn’t honest in the past, please? I find that very hard to believe.

mattbrowne's avatar

@zenvelo – Yes, Lerner mentions similar threats against liberal Jews in Israel. If Israelis can no longer criticize their government, then Israel is no longer a democracy. It’s as simple as that. Lerner suspects that both Israelis and Palestinians suffer from a collective form of PTSD which requires many years of healing.

JLeslie's avatar

There is an overall feeling in America that saying anything against Israel’s policies, or even showing any understanding for the Palestinians or other Arab countries is like an act of treason. Most of the Jews I know are fairly liberal, support Israel, but also desire to understand the perspective of both sides, the perspective of the people not just the governments, and function fairly rationally. I have found here where I live now, people seem shocked if I talk about compromise regarding Israel, or any understanding of the Arab perspective. Shock that I think it, or shock that I say it out loud? Not sure. Then it is almost like I have to prove I do support Israel. As you know I live in the bible belt, and the Evangelical Christians are religious about their support for Israel. I can honestly say I have never heard one of my friends here say something about a Palestinian state, or even question what might have happened during an incident involving Israel, they quickly assume the Israelis were right in their actions, there is no discussion necessary. Oh, except for my friends who moved away a couple of years ago. They were from Seattle though, Jewish, and the daughter, who I am friends with to, married a Palestinian-American.

Just a few weeks ago someone wrote on my friends facebook that they could not understand why Jews vote for Democrats when they don’t support Israel like the Republicans. That is ridiculous! But the right wing part of the Republican party does not tolerate any discussion, and they have used the support of Israel as a way to separate the parties, making the conservatives supportive and the liberals not so much. A total lie that works. Hushing any criticism of Israel is also very political, it is controlling the dialogue as a means to an end I figure.

America has become a very all or nothing place. You see it in our politics quite obviously. Good and bad. If you are not good you are bad, if you are bad you are not good. If you are not with us, you are against us.

I have seen Jews call other Jews antisemetic during discussions of Israel and other Jewish topics. However, like I said, overall most Jewish people I know are perfectly willing to have a discussion, an open discussion on the topic of Israel, only the religious Jews seem very close minded.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ratboy – Just the fact that a total nutcase like Santorum actually participates in the Republican primaries is a clear sign that the US can no longer be seen as a role model for the rest of the world when it comes to politics, democracy and freedom. The right-wing movement in the US is bordering on fascism, I’m afraid. It can still be contained, but we need to be vigilant.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JLeslie – We need to do something about this. We need to make clear that supporting Israel does not necessarily mean agreeing with all policies set in place by the current Israeli government. I am a total supporter of Israel. I want the people there to be able to live in safety and peace and prosperity. But we need to discuss how this can be achieved best. This must be possible in democracies. Arabs are human beings too. And they have a right to live in safety and peace and prosperity as well. Caring about their well-being doesn’t mean to be against Israel. On the contrary.

flutherother's avatar

A Jewish author, Haim Hazaz said this in 1946: “Zionism and Judaism are not the same. They are utterly different, perhaps contradictory, certainly not interchangeable terms.” That being the case I can see how tensions may arise.

JLeslie's avatar

@mattbrowne I think the majority of Jews agree with you both in Israel and in America. Look at one of our favorite Jelly’s, Zen, he wants peace, willing to give up parts of Israel for a Palestinian state, doesn’t want anyone to die, Jews or Arabs. Wants talks to take place, diplomacy. When I hear someone like zen firmly defend an Israeli decision regarding peace and war, I tend to believe him, because I know he is not hard right, blindly following, and he will disagree with Israeli decisions.

I think it truly is difficult to change it in America. Obama has been accused of not supporting Israel. Israeli’s President, Shimon Peres, was in the states recently and I saw an interview with him. He was directly asked if Obama is supportive of Israel, and he said, “do not listen to what the people against Obama say, watch his actions, there has been no other president more supportive of Israel.” I don’t know if he was saying Obama was more supportive than other Presidents, or just as supportive, because the sentence can be interpreted both ways. It doesn’t matter. What it does say is Pres. Peres understands the politics in America, and that Israel is a pawn used to divide Americans.

I think you need to fix politics in general in America to fix the conversation regarding Israel. Good luck.

At the same time parts of Europe are seen as very much supporting the Arabs to a degree many Americans don’t understand.

I wanted to mention that someone mention above Conservatives are “Pro-Israel” this is the first time I realize that is like another secret code of the right wing. I had not realized that before. Interestingly a friend of mine was telling me her sister had converted to Judaism and she was interested too, and she was asking me some questions. Weeks later religion came up again, and she said it turns out her sister is not Jewish, she is just “Pro-Israel.” my response was, “well, most of America is pro-israel.” I didn’t understand why that was such a big identifyer until this discussion.

Ron_C's avatar

I was raised in a Jewish/Catholic neighborhood. Other than rating my friends’ mothers by the quality of their cooking, there was never any difference between our friends and occasional rivals. Today I don’t think much about Jews that live in the U,S., they’re just citizens like the rest of us. As for Israel, I tend to support the liberal Israelis and oppose the fundamentalists as a drain on the country and on their democratic principles.

I don’t support the attacks of the Palestinians on the Israelis or vice versa. I know that there are a great deal of Israelis that favor helping the Palestinians gain their own state and that they are probably in the majority. The ultra religious in the U.S. and Israel are what is holding up a solution the their problems. I like Obama’s approach of looking at individual issues rather than a blanket uncritical support for everything done by Israel.

Fundamentalist religions are a problem over the entire world. The best we can hope for is the growth of liberal religion or atheism. As long as religion is used as a crutch, there will never be peace or justice in the world.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JLeslie – Can you give me an example of a country in Europe which is seen as very much supporting the Arabs to a degree many Americans don’t understand?

Yesterday the Israeli defense minister visited the German defense minister in Berlin. Germany will sell another powerful submarine to Israel and totally shares the security concerns about Iran. Yet it was also pointed out that an attack on Iran involves far more risks to Israel than benefits. Germany said the same thing before the Iraq war, by the way. And this too was labeled to be “anti”. I disagree. A true friend who cares for you will point out risks. Germany told Bush not to attack Iraq, but he didn’t listen. Germany did this because America is a friend. And Israel is a friend. And this can involve disagreements about the best path to peace and security.

Ron_C's avatar

@mattbrowne Although Germany and France seldom agree their advice to the U.S. was the same, “Don’t attack Iraq, the gains aren’t worth the effort”. The U.S. response was to rename French fries and attack and occupy Iraq.

ragingloli's avatar

When a country plans to wage wars of aggression, words alone will not dissuade them.
Did not work with Nazi Germany, did not work with the US.

zensky's avatar

Israel is a democratic nation. The only one in the Middle East. The safe haven of the Jewish peoples post Holocaust. A tiny country with a tiny population. America’s greatest ally.

Politicians, and their policies, come and go.

It’s time to stop the generaizations.

For example – the Israelis have no beef with Iran. Israelis love the Iranians – who sheltered and protected more Jews during WW2 than any other country. Fact.

Achmendinijad is an anti-semite, Israeli hating Holocaust denying asshole who has everyone in an uproar because of his (future) wmd’s. Where is Seal Team 6 when you need them? If he were treated the way he should be. i.e., like Bin Laden, there would be no problem with Iran and it wouldn’t become yet another (American/Israeli) battleground.

When America invaded Iraq – 55 scud missiles rained on Tel Aviv. Israel did not retaliate nor join in, as to the US request.

In short – sweeping generalizations of policy, right or left, doesn’t mean much. Writing a book about Israel while not living there is like talking about sex – it’s fun, and can be exciting – but it won’t get you any results.

Take it from an Israeli – it’s possible to support Israel and still be against some or even all of its policies. But if you haven’t even visitied Israel – and consistantly put it down and support Hammas – well, that’s what I call anti zionist and anti-semitic. Because the Jews have no other country. And we remember what happenend back when there wasn’t one. Never again.

Ron_C's avatar

@zensky I haven’t been there but have talked to a number of Israeli citizens. All were reformed or seclar Jews. It appears the real problem in your country is the fundamentalists who have a lot of children and expect to be supported by the state. I expect they are the majority of “settlers” outside the ‘67 boundries.

JLeslie's avatar

@Ron_C What does the fundamentalists living on welfare have to do with anything? We have those types of religious Jews in the US also. I don’t see how their economic circumstance has to do with their zionism?

@mattbrowne To be honest I hear it mostly related to France. Antisemitism and Arab sympathasizing. At the same time, not one person I know would assume if they met a Frenchman that they are antisemitic, it is a generalization of course. Many in my family would be the first years ago to say the French are the same, if not worse than the Germans, when generalizing about the holocaust, and then go on to say how much they love France, my relatives travelled quite often there, but would not have stepped in Germany. Again, this is years ago, when I was very little. So, my point is there is an underlying current it seems of feeling the French are antisemitic, and that some of the feelings seem a little irrational or illogical.

I saw a report once, it was shortly after 9/11 I remember, how some French families decided to emigrate to Israel, because they were feeling so unsafe.

There is also more of a willingness in Europe to be vocally more objective, or just more vocal in general, willing to criticize Israel, about israeli Arab relations I think. Any talk against Israel, or criticism is many times met rather harshly in the US. People don’t want to hear it or discuss it. Again an overgeneralization, but there is some truth to it.

Lastly, many American perceive Europe as being naive about Arabs emigrating to their coutries. We hear about instances where Arabs want sharia law instituted and generally that Arabs are not assimilating well and causing some problems within society. This is some of what we hear, I am not saying it is true, or that it is any worse than we in the US have difficulties with assimilating groups of people.

@zensky Do you feel like the Israelis are more understanding of Arabs and Muslims, and Persians for that matter, than Americans are? More tolerant? Asking for another generalization of course, but I wonder if you have an opinion?

zensky's avatar

I think the first mistake is simply saying “Europe” as if it were one entity. The vast cultural and economic cirsumstances among the States make it a bit naive to lop them into one bundle. The second would be to say Arabs and Muslims.

But alas, when things are complicated – we simplify.

People are people.

JLeslie's avatar

@zensky I completely agree those are mistakes. Generally, I would say Americans think western Europe when they say Europe, so that narrows it a little, I would say actually more specifically UK, Germany, France, maybe The Nordic coutries, not sure, but again I agree, I never like lumping an entire region or continent as though all the countries are the same, and of course within the countries there is a variety of people and opinions. I guess maybe we try to group things, because it makes it simpler in our minds. mericans are so very guilty of ot. Africa, Latin America, Asia, Middle East, in the media and among ourselves these huge broad descriptions are used. I do think it is part of what dumbs down America, I much prefer we speak in more specifics actually. But, back to what I originally wrote, I do think Americans are more likely to perceive European coutries as Antisemetic, because they do group these things.

Keep in mind I bet the majority of Americans think Iran is an Arab country and the people speak Arabic. What can I say. Many also think Brazil speaks Spanish. A few years ago a woman said how odd it was that a Lebonese restaurant she goes too hd Christmas decorations up. First, one does not have to be a Christian shop owner to put up Christian decorations, second, every Lebonese person I know in Memphis is Christian. Hell, St. Jude’s hospital is in Memphis, famous throughout the world for children’s cancer research and care, and it the name is in front of us constantly in the news in this city for fundraising, and she doesn’t know Lebonese people can be Christian? In Memphis one would have to be oblivious one would think? Maybe people from outside the area it is understandable, but Memphis? It’s ridiculous. But, it goes to generalizing.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Ron_C – Well, what worries me is that it’s not just the ultra religious causing problems. The American editor not allowing critical op-eds in a newspaper is not ultra religious. Most Israelis who voted for Netanyahu are not ultra religious. All the American Jews risking their careers are victims not just of ultra-religious Jews and Christians. There’s more going on here. To me it’s seems like a large-scale assault on free speech,

mattbrowne's avatar

@zensky – I wrote that if being critical is no longer possible, this damages freedom and democracy. It’s not possible to criticize totalitarian systems, but it must be possible to criticize democratically elected governments.

Yes, I totally agree that Israel must be a safe haven. This is exactly what Michael Lerner says in his book too. The recent murders in Toulouse, France is yet another horrible example which makes Jews feel unsafe. For Israel to be a safe haven it’s important to have good relations with its surrounding countries. How can such good relations be achieved. That’s the question.

Michael Lerner has visited Israeli many, many times and he maintains close relations with hundreds of Israelis. I disagree that one must live in Israel to be able to write a book about better solutions for Israel’s future. When it comes to conflicts a third view can often be helpful. Idea generation is important too. If all approaches failed in the past, it can help to challenge one’s assumptions. I hope people in Israel give Michael Lerner’s approach a fair chance.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JLeslie – It’s interesting that you mention Americans perceiving Europe as being naive about Arabs emigrating to their countries. Very often I’ve heard the exact opposite, for example when it comes to the danger of political Islam. France has recently banned face veils. In Germany all mosques are being secretly monitored since 911 to identify hotbeds of radicalization of young Muslim men. Hate speech is a crime and in many cases non-citizens had to leave the country. A famous example is

I think Europe takes the threats very seriously, but of course there are people who want our countries to be even tougher.

A problem is that as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t resolved this contributes to radicalizing tens of thousands of Muslims in Europe as well.

Ron_C's avatar

@mattbrowne The problem with the Ultra-orthodox Israelis isn’t their financial circumstance (although they are a drain on the economy). It is with their insistence that god granted them the land and all others are interlopers. As for Netanyahu it is not that he is religious it is that he is a leader in the right wing bomb the Arabs crowd. He may have toned it down a bit but his supporters just seem to want a “final solution” for the Arabs.

zensky's avatar

What I hate is both the hypocricy of (the politics of) the West (and East) if we’re going to get general here, and the very short-term and selective memory.

Look at the so-called Arab Spring? What leaders and renewal have they brought? Look at the daily massacre in Syria – what, no oil – no American interest?

It’s so easy to blame Israel for imperfections – when it’s held under the dual-standard of a microscope – but Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and the Palestinian entities in Gaza and the West Bank – as well as Iraq and Iran are its surrounding neighbours. We forget sometimes that Israel is the size of New Jersey, with an even smaller population.

It’s only been 65 years since the end of the Holocaust. Iran is promising another one.

Iraq has rained scuds on Israel without provocation in the past.

Gaza is allowing rockets to be fired from there daily – as we speak – I hear them occasionally.

Gaza is a free territory, has been since 2005, yet it elected a globally recognized terrorist group to lead it.

Abbas is weak and useless. The Palestinians are divided, both literally and metaphorically.

Look at Syria. Is Jordan next? Who would’ve thunk it about Egypt? Yemen? Libya?

So, what is Israel to do?

This has gone a little further than your quasi-naive question about Americans vis-a-vis Israel, Zionism and politics – but the song remains the same.

I, as a proud Israeli, am willing to negotiate with anyone. Is there anybody our there?

zensky's avatar

He may have toned it down a bit but his supporters just seem to want a “final solution” for the Arabs.

@Ron_C I take offense to that. Not only is Netanyahu, a veteran of several wars with children including a soldier of his own not interested in “bombing the crowds”, but those who voted for him, giving him a whopping 30 seats (of 120) in the previous elections are not into genocide I guarantee you. Find a quote somewhere, I dare you, where you can connect a Likud voter with saying “lets bomb the crowds” and a Final solution is what’s needed.

Americans think that way – and often do it – Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam – but it is not a solution and leads to more violence. Violence begets violence. Words of violence do too.

Now, we all get riled up after a 9/11 type incident, and Israel has had too much experience with terror – but to say that the whole Center-Right wing of Israel wants genocide and a Final solution. Wrong.

By the way – GQ Matt but I am weary of this debate. I participated a little out of respect for you but I can only deal with it in small doses. Outta here.

mattbrowne's avatar

Here’s the difference between Benjamin Netanyahu and Michael Lerner:

Benjamin Netanyahu sees the pain of the Israelis. And he’s right. There’s a lot of pain. In the past and in the present. His policies focus on avoiding pain for the Israelis.

Michael Lerner sees the pain of the Israelis and the Palestinians. And he’s right. There’s a lot of pain. In the past and in the present. His proposals focus on avoiding pain for the Israelis and the Palestinians. He thinks that Netanyahu’s policies are too short-sighted. This is what this debate is about. But thousands of American Jews can’t even participate in such a debate without risking their careers. This is what I’m concerned about.

zensky's avatar

Oh, and one more thing – Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of Israel while Lerner is an American writer.

Not that I’m defending Netanyahu.

Julian17's avatar

How about giving some examples of people losing their jobs by being anti Israel. You made a lot of generalizations backed by nothing other than your opinion.
“People like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Amira Hass have all faced abusive dismissals of their thinking and writing.” Abusive how? What dismissals? Chomsky certainly hasn’t suffered in his career. Zinn and Hass have made a very good living hating Israel. People are allowed to disagree with them. Nobody shouts them down or tries to stop them from speaking. It’s the pro Israel voices that get shouted down at universities when they try to speak. Pro Palestinian activists can’t win the debate on facts, so they try to intimidate and shout down pro Israel voices., Virtually all the Middle Eastern University departments are run by anti Israel leftists. You can’t get a job in these departments if you are pro Israel.

mattbrowne's avatar

@zensky – Yes, and this can still mean that Lerner is right and Netanyahu is wrong. In democracies prime ministers don’t have a monopoly on truth.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Julian17 – I was quoting from a book and not making generalizations myself. And I asked this question to get other views about Lerner’s claims. If his claims aren’t true, America doesn’t have a freedom of speech issue. If there isn’t immense pressure against people who dare publicly criticize Israel’s policies then everything is fine and we can all relax.

zensky's avatar

I think we can relax.

Julian17's avatar

I see, it’s not your opinion. You’re just an impartial guy looking for the truth. Sorry I’m not buying it. Your opinions are obvious. Just state them and don’t take me for a fool.
We do have a serious problem. Pro Israeli voices are consistently shouted down. The anti Israel left and right are trying to stifle free speech. I previously gave you a few examples and I can give you countless more. Lerner and Chomsky and the rest are never prevented from speaking.

philosopher's avatar

I can not relax either.
There are many Muslim nations. There is one Israel. They are American’s one true alley.
Matt is distorting reality. Is he actually antisemitic? He has actually stated No facts.
Does he wish us to allow them to take over our Democracies and enforce Sharia Law?
This is what I am wondering when I read this.

oratio's avatar

To me it looks like you are more or less making the point of the OP. I agree that one can stand in awe of many aspects of Israel, but one must be able to criticize the politics of Israel without being called a racist. Some might agree, that this is the purpose and essence of democracy. Or would you say that Israel can never err as a form of papal infallibility? To rhetorically question the OP in this way and suggesting the common Muslim world to be a single people hellbent on taking away your freedom and democracy seem contradictory. Kind of like a pot calling the kettle a pot.

mattbrowne's avatar

@philosopher – You are out of line. I won’t comment your reply.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Julian17 – Lerner’s claim makes more sense to me, yes. But it’s still a claim that needs further verification. Therefore I asked: What do you think about the claim of large-scale intimidation and threats against liberal Jews in America? I was looking for input. Including input like yours.

I also admit that I do trust Lerner more than I trust Netanyahu, who runs a right-wing government which includes people like Avigdor Lieberman.

I reject your notion of being anti-Israel when criticizing the policies and actions of a government run by Netanyahu. I can’t imagine anyone being more pro-Israel than Michael Lerner who has the intellect to think about mid- and long-term solutions. He is a pro-Israel voice because he knows that any solution that works for Israel has to work for the Palestinians too. Netanyahu only has short-term solutions that won’t lead to lasting peace. And his approach includes more and more new settlements in the West Bank. Both Democrats and most Republicans are against this approach.

Lerner’s book contains numerous concrete examples, but to protect the people from further right-wing attacks he does not share their names, like the editor of the newspaper I mentioned in the details section of this Fluther question.

I don’t buy your claim that people in the progressive movement are stifling free speech. They disagree with the hawks, that’s all.

Julian17's avatar

You ignore facts because it doesn’t fit your agenda. Once again. Virtually every time a pro Israel voice speaks on campuses all around the US they are shouted down, threatened by violence and blocked from speaking. Do you need more examples? Do you believe what I’m showing you?
Your “concrete examples” are unsourced, unproven stories by unnamed people. I would think you could come up with some provable examples backing Lerner’s statements. No one is threatening the Israel haters, instead it’s the far left trying to intimidate those they don’t agree with.

janbb's avatar

@Julian17 I’m trying to refrain from wading into this hot button issue; life is too short for arguing on the internet. However, I think the repression works both ways. Pro-Israel activist lobbies like AIPAC have great influence in Washington, and critics of Israeli policy are repressed. In addition as you say, pro-Israeli speakers are shouted down in some places.

philosopher's avatar

I live in New York. I saw what barbarians are capable of in the name of their so called religion.
I read about how they treat women under Sharia Law. Recently a Moroccan women was raped and forced to marry the rapist.
I believe placating bullies or Fascist is always a mistake. It was with Hitler.
I follow the actual documentation not extremist rhetoric on the R or L.

ragingloli's avatar

“Recently a Moroccan women was raped and forced to marry the rapist.”
Which, as you may know, is a divine commandment in all three abrahamic religions.

philosopher's avatar

They are anti Science and Democracy. Women are like dogs to them. They are barbaric and I pity the women. People like them hold humanity back. They oppose moving forward.
I oppose them on many grounds and one is because I am a women. They are ignorant and barbaric. They wish to force us all to follow their religionists beliefs. I see them as pure evil.
How can any educated women not fear their Fascist ways?

ragingloli's avatar

I am not saying they are not all the things you say they are. They are. But what their religion is not, is being special or different in that it supports and endorses these things. The other 2 support and endorse all these things as well. You can see the parallels in the what the christian religious right is doing right now in the US. Anti Science, Anti Women, and some, like Rick Santorum, are also anti democracy, as he wants to install a christian theocracy, christian sharia included. The difference is that, as of right now, more muslims than christians or jews take their own religion seriously. And I hope you can tell the difference between an explanation and a justification.
So yes, their fascism and theocratic tendencies must be opposed. But what you can not do is ignore similar groups and ideologies within your own society whose goals are the same.

philosopher's avatar

I agree with you. Rick Santorum is a disgusting pig.
I fear for America. We have No real leaders that care about what is best for most legal American’s. The two party system is corrupt and I wish we could start over.
I wish Hillary was President. I think she is truly brilliant. Plain is a moron.
We need more compromise between the extreme R and L. We need less rhetoric and more documentation. We need a moderate women.
Too many men are unwilling to address the issues you have. Thank you for your response.

zensky's avatar

@mattbrowne Is far from being a racist nor is he anti-Israel. He is a very left-leaning Intellectual and asks provocative questions about things that interest him. We’re lucky to have him and I consider him a friend. Let’s not jump to conclusions.

Ron_C's avatar

Criticizing Israel, in the U.S. is like declaring yourself an atheist. Both action meet with derision and possibly revenge. I should know because I have done both.

People that I considered close friends and secular Jews turn against you for even the slightest suggestion that Israel is not treating the former occupant of that country fairly. They always bring up Israeli’s efforts to incorporate Arabs into their state but say nothing about terror campaigns to encourage them to flee to refuge camps. Further despite agreements to stop settling in disputed territory they keep building and moving into those territories.

Many Americans are supportive of Israel because they think the “final days are at hand”. They also think that the remaining Israelis will become Christians to fight the final battle against the Devil’s supporters (Islam and Russians). Rick Santorum is using those people in his bid for the presidency.

Qingu's avatar

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been labeled an anti-Semite for criticizing Israel’s occupation of Palestine, or right wing Israeli parties’ foreign policy.

Inevitably, when I point out to people that I am a Semite and many members of my extended family were killed in the Holocaust, my attackers change tacts, and I’m labeled a “self-hating Jew.”

I suppose it’s not uncommon to resort to ad hominem attacks against your critics instead of thoughtfully responding to their arguments. Republicans often dismiss criticisms by labeling them as “liberal,” as if using the word as an epithet is itself a counter-argument to criticism. On Islamic message boards, my arguments were dismissed as “kufr” (unbeliever), rather than with substance.

What bugs the hell out of me is that I think Jews should know better, based on their history. For too many Jews, a siege mentality has given way to outright xenophobia and knee-jerk hatred and dismissal of anyone who’s not in the group. My grandfather, who I love, who in his personal life has been a huge role model for me, once told me that he would gladly kill every Arab to save one Jewish life. He’s gotten better since, but I think that kind of tribalism is fairly common among Jews and the McCarthy-ish lashing out against critics is just one manifestation. It’s also a big reason why I refuse to identify as a Jew.

Qingu's avatar

@philosopher, I’m demonstrably no fan of Islam. I would rather live in Israel than in an Islamic country.

But I find your statements repulsive. They remind me of statements that people made about the blacks in South Africa. South African blacks, much like Palestinians, too often resorted to hideous violence, kidnappings, and terrorism. “How could you criticize white-run apartheid when the blacks living there are a bunch of savages and barbarians?” went the argument.

The fact that a group of Muslims acts barbarically is not justification for Israel’s occupation or foreign policy, any more than the fact that black South African groups acted barbarically was justification for apartheid.

We can, and should, criticize both groups, for different but occasionally overlapping reasons. And unlike Palestinians and other Islamic countries, Americans actually have a lot of power to change Israel’s behavior, since we subsidize their entire existence. Or we could if we ever got the courage to wield it.

Julian17's avatar

I find your remarks repulsive. Israel is not South Africa under apartheid. Israeli Arabs have full citizenship in Israel despite the fact that other Arabs are trying to kill Israelis. They vote, hold office, serve in the Military and even on the Supreme Court. There are no separate facilities for Arabs citizens in Israel.
Israel’s foreign policy has been shaped by Arab violence. Before there was any so called “occupation” there was still Arab violence. The Mufti of Jerusalem was a partner with Hitler of the murder of millions of Jews.
What should Israel do differently? Should they make it easier for Arab terrorists to shoot anti tank rockets at Israeli school buses? Help Arab terrorists blow up families at their Passover meal? The reality is Israel acts with incredible restraint. If Mexico was killing American citizens by shooting missiles into the US, we would tolerate it for about an hour and then go in their and wipe out the terrorists. People like you disgust me. You sit in your comfortable and safe homes giving your silly opinions on how Israel should sacrifice its’ citizens lives.

jaytkay's avatar

What should Israel do differently?

Not kill thousands of its neighbors in retaliation for ineffectual rocket attacks. Remove the illegal settlements and stop the ethnic cleansing. Refrain from collective punishment. Allow Gaza and the West Bank a normal economic life instead of deliberately keeping them in desperate poverty.

Not murdering your prime ministers who actually try to alleviate the carnage would be helpful, too.

No people would put up with the treatment Israel inflicts on its neighbors. Its policies are exactly what you pursue if you want to encourage suicide bombers and keep the hardliners on the other side in power.

Qingu's avatar

@Julian17, you don’t appear to understand why people claim Israel is an apartheid state. It’s not about Arab Israeli citizens (although you can argue that they should have more civil rights). It’s about the millions of Arabs living in the occupied territories who do not have the right to vote in Israeli elections.

Think about this in the abstract. In South Africa, millions of blacks did not have the right to vote in elections. Whites forced blacks to live in separate “homelands” that functioned almost exactly like Gaza and the West Bank. They weren’t sovereign countries, they were simply holding regions for undesirable people who, if allowed to vote in the country, would take it over.

Until Gaza and the West Bank become sovereign countries—or until the people living there get to vote in Israeli elections, which would mean nearly as many Arab voters in Israel as Jewish ones—I think it’s completely fair to call Israel an apartheid state.

Now, I understand and am sympathetic to the security issue. Hamas is a terrorist organization. But so were black South Africans. Your statements about the epidemic of “Arab violence” mirror almost exactly white statements about black South African violence. It doesn’t change the fact that the entire situation is unjust.

What should be done? I strongly support a two-state solution, and so do many Israeli and Palestinians. Sharon and Abbas were on the cusp of coming to a historic agreement, in fact—and then Netanyahu won election and unilaterally torpedoed the negotiations. Netanyahu also unilaterally resumed construction of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian West Bank, and has repeatedly expressed his willingness to maintain the status quo (that is, apartheid) rather than working to find a solution, and has consistently pandered to the most hardline religious zealots in his constituency. On the Israeli side, what should be done is to stop electing right-wing zealots like Netanyahu, immediately stop encroaching on Palestinian territory with settlements, and accept that concessions will have to be made in a two-state solution.

On the Palestinian side, obviously Hamas should disband, but that’s probably wishful thinking. I think they should continue to take their case to the UN, and should continue engaging in nonviolent protest. Unfortunately, there isn’t much they can do aside from that; Israel holds all the power. But stopping violent attacks and terrorism could help unite the world around a two-state solution along current territorial lines.

So what’s your solution, @Julian17? And by the way, do you actually live in Israel?

flutherother's avatar

It is worth remembering that Jews and Arabs lived together relatively peacefully for hundreds if not thousands of years in the Middle East. There is nothing inherently anti Jewish about Islam. It was the founding of the state of Israel and the inability of the two peoples to compromise which has led to violence.

Ron_C's avatar

like @flutherother says, “There is nothing inherently anti Jewish about Islam. It was the founding of the state of Israel and the inability of the two peoples to compromise which has led to violence” It is the U.S. position of unconditionally supporting anything that Israel does that prevents the two parties from reaching an agreement.

If Israel has nothing to loose in refusing to negotiate, then there will never be a common ground between them and their former Arab citizens.

Qingu's avatar

@flutherother, I think your statement needs some heavy qualification. Under Islam, Jews (and Christians) lived as dhimmis — second class citizens, basically. They were allowed some religious freedom, but were taxed more than Muslims and could not hold political office or serve as witnesses on juries.

I would certainly have rather been a dhimmi Jew under Islam than a Jew living in Christendom at the time, but Islam was definitely not egalitarian.

Also, leading up to the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, violence between Jews and Arabs was not exactly uncommon.

flutherother's avatar

@Qingu As you point out Dhimmis weren’t Jews and Islamic law had no particular focus on the Jews. They could live and worship as they pleased and were guaranteed security of life and property. It may not have been perfect, and I understand the longing of the Jewish people for a land of their own, but it worked well enough for a very long time.

Qingu's avatar

I don’t think it makes sense to point to Islamic treatment of dhimmis as “getting along,” though. Non-Muslims, including Jews, were oppressed minorities under the Caliphate. Not as oppressed as other civilizations treated their minorities, to be sure. But I sure doubt that Muslims today would like to be treated as dhimmis. It sucked and it shouldn’t be an example for today.

Julian17's avatar

Your ignorance is startling. The West Bank economy is booming. The little suffering in Gaza is because of the repressive terrorist group that’s the government. Israel isn’t killing thousands of Arabs. Virtually all that were killed in Caste Lead were members of Arab terror organizations. Considering the thousands of terrorist attacks against Israeli woman and children, including children blown up in a Pizza Parlor. Almost daily homicide bombings. Families blown up at Passover Dinner. A school bus filled with Israeli children destroyed by an anti tank missile. Arab casualties are incredibly few.
“Ineffective” rockets filled with nails terrorize those they are fired at. No country would stand for these “ineffectual” rockets being shot at their civilian population. If a terror group was shooting “ineffectual” rockets at US cities we would stop the perpetrators immediately. Anti Israel people like you feel Israel should allow their citizens to be bombed and do nothing.
I doubt there’s another country on earth with the military power of Israel would tolerate the vile terror attacks and respond in such an incredibly restrained manner.
The Arabs and the Israel haters like you have one agenda, the destruction of Israel.

Qingu's avatar

@Julian17, let’s be clear: by “destruction of Israel,” do you mean letting people in the occupied territories vote in Israeli elections? Because I’d be fine with that.

I’d prefer a two-state solution, however, because it would be less painful for both parties involved.

Can’t wait to hear your solution.

By the way, if you are accusing me of “wanting the destruction of Israel” in the sense of supporting the murder of innocent civilians by terrorists, I think you owe me and everyone else you’re implicating in this conversation a huge fucking apology.

Julian17's avatar

Arab violence against Jews goes back to when the Prophet slaughtered the Jews in Saudi Arabia.
There has never been a Palestinian State and when Egypt and Jordan controlled Gaza and the West Bank no call for one. In fact there were no people called Palestinians until Israel controlled those areas. The Arabs have rejected every peace offer. After the 1967 war they offered the land back to the Arabs and they got the famous three “no’s”
Then the further rejections at Camp David, Taba and Olmert’s incredibly generous offer. They could have had a state countless times prior to Netanyahu’s election. Netanyahu was elected because Palestinian rejectionism destroyed the Israeli left.
As long as the Palestinians continue to launch rockets, slaughter Israeli families(the Fogels) they will never see a state.

jaytkay's avatar

@Julian17 Just picking one of the laughably false claims in your post, show evidence of “daily homicide bombings”. Show me 7 in the past week. 30 in the past month. Or any number even near that. You need to back up your claims.

Qingu's avatar

@Julian17, if you’d like to invoke Arab violence against Jews during the time of the prophet Muhammad, then it’s equally fair to invoke Jewish violence against Arab ancestors during the time of Joshua. In Deuteronomy 20, the Jews were ordered by their god to commit genocide against the Canaanite inhabitants of the promised land, “leaving nothing that breathes remain alive.” The book of Joshua describes repeated genocides against tribes living in Canaan in gruesome and victorious detail.

Say what you will about Muhammad—I’m certainly no fan—but at least he never committed genocide against the Jews, and at least the Quran does not advocate genocide against rival cultures living on a parcel of land.

Now, let’s talk about more recent times. Yes, there never was a “Palestinian state.” Likewise, there was never a Jewish state before 1947. There was never an American state before 1776. What on earth is your point? Why do you think this matter?

Here’s what matters: there were millions of non-Jews living on Israeli land when the country was deemed a “state” by colonial powers, many of those people didn’t want to live in the new state, many of them were forcibly evicted from their homes. And now their descendants are living under permanent military occupation under a government that they do not participant in.

And some of them have become terrorists. Many of them behave like savages.

I still haven’t heard you advocate a solution. It sounds like you’re advocating a permanent military occupation of almost 3 million people, until they become “civilized.” Please understand this is the exact same argument in favor of South African apartheid.

Julian17's avatar

You can’t be serious. I was giving historical examples. Israeli families haven’t been blown up at their Passover meals for a few years. The Fogels were slaughtered a year ago. Arab terrorists target children as we have just seen in France. The almost daily homicide bombings happened a few years ago. In the 2000 to 2009 decade I would estimate about 150 homicide bombings.

jaytkay's avatar

The almost daily homicide bombings happened a few years ago. In the 2000 to 2009 decade I would estimate about 150 homicide bombings.

150 in a decade is “daily”? Your math skills could use some improvement.

Julian17's avatar

“Say what you will about Muhammad—I’m certainly no fan—but at least he never committed genocide against the Jews, and at least the Quran does not advocate genocide against rival cultures living on a parcel of land.”
You really need to study Muhammad and Islam before making such incredibly silly statements. What do you think happened to the Jews in Saudi Arabia? Saudi Arabia was almost half Jewish in the time of Muhammad. According to the Hadith and Sira Muhammad beheaded about 800 men and boys of the Jewish Qurayza tribe. Prior to this mass murder he evicted Banu Qaynuqa and the Banu Nadir from their lands and took all their wealth. Muhammad was a real historical figure that there are records of, not a story from the Bible.

Julian17's avatar

Your ignorance makes it all too easy. Wikipedia gives 148. My figure was only an estimate. I would imagine that the poor Israelis blown to bits would want all 150 counted.

Julian17's avatar

Sorry, but it’s the Palestinians that refuse to negotiate. They continue to set preconditions for talks. Israel continues to ask for negotiations without preconditions.

Qingu's avatar

@Julian17, I’m familiar with Muhammad’s slaughter of civilian men and boys during the siege of the Banu Qurayza This practice is exactly in line with what the Torah proscribes for the normal rules of warfare in Deuteronomy 20:10.

If a town does not submit to you peacefully, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, livestock, and everything else in the town, all its spoil.

So I’m not sure why you’re even bringing it up.

Muhammad’s treatment of the Banu Qurayza Jews is also better than what the Torah proscribes for inhabitants of the holy land a few verses later, (and throughout the book of Joshua):

But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded,

Muhammad killed only male civilians; the Jews were ordered (and, according to the Bible, repeatedly performed) complete genocide of conquered populations if they lived in the holy land—not just men, but women and children too.

By the way, do you think Joshua is a “real historical figure”? Most Jews do. Most Jews venerate Joshua as a hero of their religion—Joshua, who committed genocide against the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites… and so on. Especially the orthodox zealots and settlers who form Netanyahu’s primary constituency.

Note also that Muhammad, in a later campaign called the Battle of Khaybar, allowed a conquered Jewish settlement to live peacefully as long as it paid tribute. This practice became the norm for later Muslim conquerers (who treated the Jews as dhimmis rather than slaughtering them).

Personally speaking, though, I don’t think Jews or Muslims today should be judged by the actions of their ancestors. If you do, then please explain why you support people who believe in a religion and worship ancestral heroes that advocate and performed multiple genocides.

Qingu's avatar

Now, if you’re willing to move past historical violence as a means to demonize whole groups of people, maybe we should talk about contemporary violence instead. Here are some relevant statistics:

Since September 2000:

• 731 Israeli civilians have been killed
• 3,535 – 4,226 Palestinian civilians have been killed.
• 125 Israeli children killed
• 1,471 Palestinian children.


Now, you can fairly say that Hamas suicide and rockets attack often aim at civilians, and Israeli airstrikes do not. That is a hugely important distinction, and I would agree that Hamas is “more barbaric” and bears more moral culpability for the people it kills deliberately than the civilians accidentally killed in Israeli strikes.

But the imbalance is startling. And even if 1,400 children have been killed “by accident” in the last 10 years, I hope you can understand why their families and communities are so enraged, and even why they support horrific violence against the people responsible. It shouldn’t be hard to understand, since you yourself support horrific violence against the people responsible for rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.

jaytkay's avatar

@Julian17 So twice now you are claiming 150 times in ten years = “daily”? You’re obviously committed to delusional ranting just to get a reaction. Sorry I humored you even a little bit.

Julian17's avatar

Your comparison of Muhammad slaughtering Jews to the old testament doesn’t work. Do you believe these Bible stories are real? We have a real historical record of Muhammad’s deeds and it isn’t pretty.
Your source is also laughable. If Americans knew is an anti Israel, anti Jewish hate site.
It’s good to see where your views come from. Do you believe Jews are stealing Arab organs and blood to bake in Matzoh’s?

Qingu's avatar

@Julian17, let me get this straight, because now I’m very confused. Are you saying the ancient Hebrews never went to war? Are you saying that, if they did go to war, they didn’t actually follow the rules of warfare proscribed in their religious text?

I don’t believe the conquest happened as the Bible said it did, but I find it absurd to suggest that the ancient Hebrews didn’t engage in warfare as described. But if you’d like to suggest that the ancient Hebrews, contrary to their entire religious history, were actually peace-loving hippies, you go right ahead.

Better yet, you make that argument to Benjamin Netanyahu and his core constituency of orthodox Jews who believe the Bible literally happened exactly as it says and venerate Joshua’s genocidal deeds as heroic.

And I notice you dismissed my source as a “hate site.” Please support this assertion. Please also understand that the source I linked to cites Israeli sources for its numbers. So maybe your proper slur here, if you don’t want to actually want to engage is discussion, is “self-hating Jewish sources.” That said, how many Jewish and Palestinian civilians do you believe have been killed since 2000?

And I’m still waiting to here your ideas for what to do with the Jewish occupation of Palestinian territories. Or do you support the status quo?

I sure would appreciate some answers to these questions, to show that you’re actually engaged in these issues instead of merely interested in spurting slurs about how much we hate Jews.

Julian17's avatar

My goodness they linked to Israeli sources so it must be true. You wouldn’t accept the American Nazi party as a good source would you? How about the American Socialist Workers Party? Yet if something is from an Israeli source it’s automatically true.
Your source IF Americans Knew has one agenda. It’s anti Israel.
I don’t know what your casualty figures are supposed to prove. If Palestinians kill a restaurant full of children and Israel responds by attacking the terrorist infrastructure and kills more people than the Palestinian terrorists, that makes the terrorists right? Israel attacks the terrorist infrastructure and try really hard not to kill civilians. The Palestinians intentionally target civilians. The Palestinians have rejected every peace offer because their objective is the end of Israel.
I don’t think any Israeli government will go further than Olmert’s offer and I don’t see the Palestinians agreeing to less than everything. It’s a mess.

Qingu's avatar

It’s becoming clear to me that you’re not interested in having an honest discussion. I’ll note that you didn’t actually answer my questions. So I’ll ask you again, and if you don’t answer, I’m going to simply ignore you from now on.

If you disagree with the source I cited, how many civilians do you think Israel and Palestine have respectively killed since 2000? Please provide your source.

I’ll also point out, for what must be the fourth or fifth time in this thread, that I do not equivocate terrorists who aim at civilians with IDF soldiers who accidentally kill civilians. I agree there is an important moral difference, have repeatedly agreed, and by bringing this point up you’ve shown either that you are illiterate or that you are not interested in discussing things fairly.

Finally, “it’s a mess” doesn’t answer my question about whether you support the status quo. Do you support continued occupation of Palestinian territories, and the 3.5 million people who live there? If you do, then you support apartheid—because those 3.5 million people cannot vote in the elections of the country that controls their territory. You may of course argue that apartheid is the lesser of two evils in this case. But be clear about it.

Ron_C's avatar

@Julian17 “Your comparison of Muhammad slaughtering Jews to the old testament doesn’t work. Do you believe these Bible stories are real?” I have to go along with Qingu on this.

Neither side has a very good history. The middle east has been a hotbed of war and genocide for thousands of years and there is no reason to expect change anytime too.

However I do agree that too much uncritical support is given to Israel, especially the fundamentalist settlers.

mattbrowne's avatar

I needed a break from Fluther. Seriously.

In the past I usually enjoyed intellectually stimulating discussions and it made me want to come back and log onto Fluther. This wasn’t the only thread I found disappointing on how we interact with each other as human beings. So much rudeness and disrespect. Insinuating that a German citizen might be antisemitic is one of the most severe insults that do exist when someone intends to insult Germans. If you want to hurt the feelings of a German, call him or her a Nazi. It’s like calling an African-American a nigger and a monkey. It can’t get any worse.

My wife and I spent 10 wonderful days in the UK, mostly Devon and Cornwall, and we also visited our daughter who is studying in London at the Imperial College. When I returned home I just didn’t want to go back to Fluther, because I knew it would make me angry again. Time heals and I needed some distance. And I consider myself to be a forgiving person.

I really care about Israel very very much and am so frustrated that no durable solution is in sight. So I keep searching for the root causes and people who are suggesting new approaches. Lerner’s book really inspired me. I believe in freedom of speech. And people should be able to discuss his ideas and form opinions.

I need some time to look at all new 38 comments and will first check out my other threads with new activities.

janbb's avatar

@mattbrowne Welcome back and I understand completely where you are coming from. Israel is one of those hot-button issues which are so polarizing that I rarely find it profitable to post on these threads any more.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, @janbb, this debate seems to lead us nowhere, so I’ve decided to give it a rest.

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